EASTERN CONFERENCE ROUND 1
#8 ATLANTA HAWKS VS. #1 INDIANA PACERS
I’m not sure there’s been a conference number one seed that’s slipped so far in hoopheads’ expectations as this Pacers team. After stumbling to the finish line, many fear their slump will continue into the postseason. But do the 38-44 Hawks have enough talent to best this Indiana roster even if the Pacers play subpar basketball?
#7 CHARLOTTE BOBCATS VS. #2 MIAMI HEAT
The Bobcats finished with the second-best record in franchise history. But they haven’t beat the three-peat seeking Heat since LeBron moved to Miami. Will Charlotte’s post-monster Al Jefferson overmatch Miami’s bigs down low and force them to alter their lock-down defense? Will D. Wade’s knees hold up in his fourth run at the Finals with the new Big 3?
#6 BROOKLYN NETS VS. #3 TORONTO RAPTORS
Do the young and playoff-inexperienced Toronto squad have the savvy to upend the veteran Brooklyn side? Has first-year coach Jason Kidd’s team gelled enough to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference? This first-round series could boil down to the backcourt battle between Williams/Livingston vs. DeRozan/Lowry.
#5 WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. #4 CHICAGO BULLS
The upstart Wizards team is looking to win their first playoff series in 9 years. After losing Derrick Rose (again) for the year and trading away the versatile Luol Deng, can coach Thibodeau’s defensive schemes slow down the explosive backcourt of Wall and Beal?
WESTERN CONFERENCE ROUND 1
#8 DALLAS MAVERICKS VS. #1 SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Is there any fathomable scenario in which Dirk & friends take down this machine-like, multi-style Spurs team? Outside of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili, who in the Black & Silver will step up big for coach Pop this postseason?
#7 MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES VS. #2 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Soon-to-be named 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant will try to avenge last year’s 4-1 playoff loss to the Griz. Can Memphis’ experienced and rugged core group slow down PG Westbrook and thus the Thunder offense?
#6 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS VS. #3 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
The league’s most lethal shooter aka Steph Curry will try to bomb the Warriors past their in-state rivals. Will MVP-candidate Black Griffin silence all the haters on the Dubs?
#5 PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS VS. #4 HOUSTON ROCKETS
This will be a matchup of dynamic duos: Harden and Howard vs. Lillard and Aldridge. Which team will perform better at both ends of the court? Will Linsanity get a chance to shine or will Patrick Beverly play the majority of minutes at the 1-guard?